BOWLING GREEN - Players win football games, but coaches lose them. Most of the teams in the Mid-American Conference can play the game, more or less. There are no secrets.
The difference is recruiting and who gets the most out of what they have. Generally speaking, X's and O's are basically the same across the board and today's players bore easily. The best coaches can motivate their players, even when those players believe the well is dry.
The coaches who are difference-makers, those are the ones whose players will fight for them.
Bowling Green State University's football team had become punchless, enduring six consecutive losing seasons under Gary Blackney, the lame-duck leader who stopped making a difference.
New BG coach Urban Meyer III has yet to coach a down in a college football game. The longtime assistant is 36 going on 60 and has a pow of a smile. He comes with an impressive coaching pedigree that includes five years at Notre Dame, six years at Colorado State, two years at Illinois State and two years as a graduate assistant at Ohio State.
Meyer will make a difference at Bowling Green - or else. He's the hand-picked choice of athletic dierctor Paul Krebs, who is staking his reputation on the hire.
Krebs said Meyer is the pick of the litter. A difference-maker.
“I think he's one of the best young coaches in America,” Krebs said upon introducing Meyer to family, friends, well-wishers, alumni members and reporters yesterday. “Urban has a way with people. He has a way of getting people motivated and getting things done. He's relentless.”
Meyer becomes the youngest coach in the MAC. His youth may have won him the job.
“Let's face it, coaching is a young man's game. So many coaches burn out. I was really impressed with Urban's youth and his energy.,” said board of trustees member Mike Wilcox.
President Dr. Sidney Ribeau said Meyer has the potential to make football exciting again at BG.
“What I want to see on the football field is excitement,” Ribeau said. “But also the intensity and desire. Never giving up - win, lose or draw. From everything we've heard, Urban can bring that to the program.”
“My son is intense,” said Urban Meyer Jr. “He has no idea what's going on outside of Bowling Green today. When he loses a game a pall of disaster comes over the whole household.”
Timing is everything for BG's new coach. The Falcons could potentially return 18 starters in 2001. There's a lot of promise, despite the 2-9 record this year.
“I'm leaving a great situation. So I want to make sure it's right. There's no question in my mind it's right,” Meyer said. “It's a no-brainer.”
Ohio State assistant Bill Conley, the Buckeyes' recruiting coordinator, was another BG coaching candidate. Meyer and Conley both have ties to OSU, and Conley has excellent coaching credentials. However, Krebs, who also worked at Ohio State before coming to Bowling Green, was seeking more than a football coach.
“I think Urban has the kind of personality that fans will gravitate to,” Krebs said. “I expect him to be very involved with work in the community and try to help re-establish our fan base.”
Urban Meyer III spoke briefly from a prepared statement before accepting questions from reporters. When Meyer's words were unrehearsed, you would have thought he was in the locker room delivering a fiery halftime speech to his players. He was emotional and believable.
John Harris is The Blade's sports columnist.